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Date: June 25, 2008

UVic Appoints National Aboriginal Economic Development Chair

Canadian-born Indigenous scholar James Hopkins will become the inaugural National Aboriginal Economic Development Chair, based in the Faculties of Business and Law at the University of Victoria. This new position, the first of its kind in Canada, will direct a program of research, relationship building and educational initiatives aimed at promoting Aboriginal economic development in Canada.

“I am delighted that UVic has been able to attract a scholar of Professor Hopkins’ calibre to carry out the wide-ranging goals of this position,” says University of Victoria President David Turpin. “I look forward to his appointment being a catalyst for research, partnerships and educational programs that will help break down barriers to Aboriginal economic development in Canada.”

Born in Ottawa, Hopkins’ interest in Aboriginal communities stems from his Métis status and community in Quebec. “Seeing firsthand the challenges Aboriginal communities face in developing their own economies puts their struggles in perspective for me,” says Hopkins. While majoring in political science at the University of Toronto, he regarded pursuing a law degree as an important way to address the disparity in wealth and lack of infrastructure in Aboriginal communities.

“I committed myself to a broad understanding of business law and how it impacts Aboriginal communities. I felt that Aboriginal communities would need to access this information to develop their own vision of sustainable communities,” he adds.

After graduating from the University of Toronto law school in 1996, he articled at the Toronto office of a large national law firm and then clerked for the Northern Regions of the Ontario Superior Court. In 2000 he graduated from Harvard Law School’s joint Master of Laws and International Tax Program, earning the Award of Excellence in Research and Writing on public policy solutions to Aboriginal taxation and governance. “There was a disconnect in how the law approached issues around Aboriginal poverty and the role played by institutions, and I wanted to learn more about this issue to see how it was addressed in other countries,” says Hopkins.

That led him to the University of Arizona’s Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program where, since 2000, Hopkins has served as associate clinical professor and was the program’s inaugural director. Prior to this appointment, Hopkins was a faculty member at the University of Alberta law school and a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa and, in the summer of 2005, at UVic’s Indigenous Legal Studies Program. He serves as the Chief Justice of the Pascua Yaqui Court of Appeal and brings a rich comparative law background to his new position at UVic.

“There is no position like this in Canada or the world,” says Hopkins. “The chair will integrate and deepen the resources of the business and law faculties to provide Aboriginal communities with important research and information on the economic environments in which they operate, as well as strategies for promoting sustainable forms of economic development.”

Hopkins has taught and written about Indigenous self governance, Aboriginal business and economic development, and taxation policies. His work with Canadian Aboriginal organizations includes the National Centre on First National Governance and the Indigenous Bar Association. He says he sees his mandate as creating awareness of the economic development options available to Aboriginal peoples. Hopkins’ initial appointment begins in July 2009, but he will start developing the program over the coming year during visits to the UVic campus.

“Prof. Hopkins’ appointment and the confirmation of funding arrangements for the Chair concludes the process of creating this groundbreaking and valuable position,” says UVic Law Dean Andrew Petter.

“We have secured an outstanding candidate and the resources necessary to launch the Chair’s essential work and to help improve the lives of Indigenous Peoples in the years to come,” adds UVic Business Dean Ali Dastmalchian.

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Media contacts:
Members of the media can contact James Hopkins at the University of Arizona at 520-360-9924 or 520-621-7669 or hopkins@law.arizona.edu;
Ali Dastmalchian (Business) at cell: 250-516-2611 or dastmal@uvic.ca;
Andrew Petter (Law) at 250-721-8147 or lawdean@uvic.ca;
Patty Pitts (UVic Communications) at 250-721-7656 or ppitts@uvic.ca

Backgrounders:
National Aboriginal Economic Development Chair
Photos page:
UVic Appoints National Aboriginal Economic Development Chair Images

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